GOTW & my Sony Alpha review

this drawing is closed

I waited far too long to tell you all about my favorite camera ever, but the result is that I’m even more in love than I was back when I should have done this post.

Remember when I scored 3 free cameras from Sony?  And I told you about the sweet little cybershot, which can usually be found in one of my daughters’ purses.  Now, I’m going to tell you about the star of the show.

Isn’t it beautiful?  This was the camera that I thought would be hubby’s.  He was longing for a DSLR, while I didn’t even know what that meant.  As it turned out, this was the camera I waited all my life to own and I didn’t even know it.

features and design

I fell in love with it right away, even before I got home.  I arrived home with a tenuous grasp of the concepts and effects of aperture and F/stop, shutter speed, white balance,  iso, etc.  Thanks to Me Ra Koh’s instructional videos, I was able to go beyond the green box (the auto mode) and start learning to use and control these features right away.  I still have a ton to learn, but I feel like a real photographer!

The Alpha is easy to learn and easy to use.  The intelligent design lets “green box” photographers get the photos they want, while wanna-be’s and control freaks like me can find the features we want to control.  We might not always get the photo we want, but we know how to try!

I’ve learned that it’s a snap (snap.  get it?  it’s a snap. I slay myself.) to take a photo in front of a window without turning the subject into a silhouette (hold down the AEL button).  I can catch droplets of water in midair when the kids splash in the pool (super fast shutter speed).  I can keep my baby from looking green even when she’s lying on the green couch (adjust the white balance).

And I can take photos of my sleeping baby in my dimly lit bedroom without waking her up with the flash.

That last sentence requires a bit of explanation.

compatible lenses

We briefly considered selling the Alpha to buy another DSLR that had less expensive lenses. After all, what’s the fun of having an SLR if you can’t switch lenses?   The lens that came with the camera is a very nice lens indeed, but we wanted to be able to get that super-shallow depth of field that blurs and softens everything except the subject.

This lets you take photos of your kids without showing the world your baskets of laundry, overflowing trash can, or sink full of dishes in the background.

As it turns out, we didn’t have to pay top dollar for brand new Sony lenses.  We spent some time on google and learned that the Alpha is an update of the old Minolta Maxxum, a film SLR.  Do you know what this means? It means that the lenses are interchangeable!  Rather than paying hundreds of dollars for each extra lens, we were able to buy the 2 lenses we wanted from Craigslist for about $50 each.

Incidentally, this will work for most other DSLRs.  Just google the name of your camera model along with the words “compatible lenses” and see what turns up.

Why did I tell you all this?  Because I have learned that the same lens that creates that blurred background also lets in so much light that the flash is rarely necessary.  All of the photos below were taken in a dim room with just one small north-facing window.

This one was taken with the standard lens, just the way the camera recommended.  It’s not bad, but Bethany looks a little scared by the flash, and see the harsh shadow at Natalie’s jawline?  If she were old enough to have wrinkles or bags under her eyes, they’d be highlighted in technicolor!

Now we try it without the flash.  This slows down the shutter so much that the girls are blurry – either they moved or I did.  Or we all did.  If you have a pulse, chances are you’re going to move just a little, and that’s all it takes to blur a flashless photo in dim light.

Now look at the same photo with my $50 Craigslist lens – the one that would have cost $300 or more new, but came from an old film camera that nobody wanted anymore.  Remember, dim room, no flash.

Can you see why it’s my favorite lens?  And it attaches to my favorite camera.  That works out very nicely, you know?

Another feature that I really love is that the LCD screen tilts up and down, making it very easy to:

  1. take pictures of really short people kids at their own level without lying on the floor.  I can just hold the camera way down low and tilt the display up so I can see it well.
  2. take pictures over the heads of other people without standing on a chair.  I can just stick the camera up over my head and tilt the display down.

Of course, equal and opposite benefits apply to really short people kids taking pictures of adults.  This is important because we have a lot of kids in our house who think they are allowed to use my Sony Alpha.

cons

There is a short list of petty things I don’t like about this camera – petty, because they wouldn’t bother an organized person.  They only bother me because I know my limits.

  • Instead of a convenient docking station, you have to pull out the battery to recharge it. I don’t know about you, but I’m sure that one of these days I’m going to walk out of the house with a fully loaded camera bag and leave the battery behind on the charger.  The main reason I’m sure is because it’s already happened with other cameras.  Yes, we’re slow learners.
  • The usb cable for transferring my photos to my computer is not the common size that fits every other electronic device in my house.  It doesn’t match the other 19 usb cables floating around our house.  This is a problem because we already lost it and none of our other cables fit.  Since it takes a common memory format, we can still transfer photos using almost any card reader (which, incidentally, plugs into the computer with a common usb cable), but eventually I’m going to have to spring for a new cable.  That bugs me.

That’s it.  I told you it was a short list.  I heart my Sony Alpha.

THE GIVEAWAY

You thought I forgot, didn’t you?  Well, I can’t give you a Sony Alpha.  You’ll have to save your pennies for that.  But I can help you make better use of the features in your own humbler digital camera.

Me Ra Koh has generously agreed to give away a set of her instructional DVDs here on our blog!  It was her workshop that helped me understand the features and functions in my camera – features and functions that my old Fuji also has!  She also taught me a lot that has nothing to do with the camera and everything to do with who’s holding it: framing and composition, lighting, choosing and creating the moment, and much more.

These DVDs will teach you to capture memories in your photos instead of just a collection of cheesy smiles.

Now who wants them?

TO ENTER:

Visit Me Ra’s photography blog and spend a couple of minutes looking at the Tips for Moms category.  Come back and tell me what you learned.  That’s all you have to do.  It doesn’t have to be anything profound or complicated – just share us a tip that you picked up.

To double your chance of winning, blog about this giveaway and then leave another comment with a link to your post.  Be sure to include at least one link to Me Ra’s site and one link to this giveaway in your post.

I’ll announce a winner on Friday.

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